It’s been exactly 25-years since the Voyager 1 spacecraft turned its camera back towards home, to take a planetary selfie from beyond Neptune. The anniversary has the photo, above, back in the news, and back to what the late astronomer Carl Sagan hoped would be its lasting impact: “..it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”
Man, I wish Carl Sagan was still around. Because on the heels of the photo anniversary, comes news today that scientists are predicting events that will make our pale blue dot less blue, and more brown.
Talking about droughts. Check that; MEGA-droughts. NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies released a study in which computer models show decades-long dry spells for the American Southwest and Great Plains, the kind that haven’t been seen since the 12th and 13th centuries; the kind some scholars believe destroyed early civilizations in those parts of the Americas. The news website Capital OCT quotes the report naming 2025 as the doomsday date, so to speak.
A-HA, climate change denialists might exclaim; if it happened 800-years ago, there’s proof right there that our current warming is not man-made. True, earth’s climate has always been changing. But it’s the near-unanimous opinion of climate scientists that the increasing levels of CO2 from coal-fired plants and other forms of pollution are making it much worse (feel free to express your objections below, but as I’ve stated before, I’ll stick with the guys who study this stuff for a living).
The droughts predicted for the Western U.S. in the Goddard study would last for 30, 40, 50 years at a time. California is already in a crisis stage with a drought that is now entering only its fourth year. As Sunbelt populations climb, that’s a distressing long-term picture; one that should have us looking anew at another picture on millions of computer screens this week: the pale blue dot, so alone in space, with only us to preserve and cherish it.